Three of the four games played yesterday went to the wire. Syrcacuse, Charleston, and Dunedin each won masterpieces (we used to call them dillies) in dramatic fashion, while the lone loser on the day, New Hampshire, prevented the Jays from collecting their third consecutive minor league sweep. There were about a hundred First Star candidates for today's soon-to-be controversial Three Star Selection, but I'm sure you'll all agree today's choice is a worthy one.
Syracuse 4, Pawtucket (BOS) 3
Alex Rios had his third game-winning hit in as many days, and Chris Baker pitched a near-perfect six innings, outdueling Ed Yarnall in the process, as the SkyChiefs levelled their record at 5-5 by winning another thriller at P&C. With one out, and the game tied at zero in the bottom of the eighth, Noah Hall walked and promptly stole second. After battling back from an 0-2 count and fouling off several pitches, Rios hammered an Edwin Almonte offering to deep left centre (as SkyChiefs play-by-playman Bob McElligott called it with his trademark, "A-B-C-ya-later!") to make it 2-0. Simon Pond followed with a shot of his own over the left field fence, giving the Chiefs a three run lead. With two away, Shawn Fagan singled and moved to second base on a walk by Howie Clark. Gregg Zaun came through with an RBI-single, making the score 4-0. As it turns out, Zaun's two-out single was the difference, as Vinny Chulk surrendered back-to-back homers to Brian Daubach (a two-run shot) and Andy Dominique in the top of the ninth, cutting the score to 4-3. Mark Lukasiewicz came in to end the PawSox rally, walking the first batter he faced, but inducing two flyouts to end the game, for his second save of the season. Russ Adams sat the game out, allowing Sequea (1-4, K) to start at short for the first time this season. Rios was 1-3, and took his first walk of the season, as well as his eighth strikeout. His two RBI brought his total to 11 through 9 games. Pond (2-4, HR, RBI, 2 K) and Fagan (3-4, three singles) were the other key offensive contributors.
Chulk was credited with the victory, although even Vinny would tell you that it was Chris Baker who deserved the "W". Baker was simply phenomenal once again. After pitching five shutout innings against Adam Dunn and the Reds (3 H, 0 BB, 2 SO) in a Spring Training tilt, he pitched a masterful six innings (O ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 8 SO) in his first start of the season for Syracuse. Yesterday, Baker had a no-hitter (though McElligott wouldn't announce so at the time) through five-and-two-thirds innings. In the top of the sixth, Jimmy Alvarez led off with a walk, and stole second. After Baker had retired the next two batters (strikeout, flyout), he hit Carlos Febles, putting runners on first and second. Brian Daubach came to the plate and broke up the no-no with a single through the right side. Gabe Gross proceeded to nail ex-teammate Alvarez at the plate with a perfect throw to Zaun, preserving the tie. Baker, replaced by Chulk to start the seventh, would get the no-decision, but along with the pitching line (6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO) Chris undoubtedly left a clear and unmistakable message to JP Ricciardi and Co: he won't be lost in the mix of almost-ready-for-prime-time pitchers in the Jays farm system.
Trenton (NYY) 8, New Hampshire 2
After pitching 263 games of professional ball, all in relief, Todd Ozias might have been just as surprised as Bauxites were, to find out he was going to be a starter in Toronto's pitching-rich farm system. But with several higher-ceiling prospects working out their mechanics (Vince Perkins, in Dunedin), strengthening their repertoire (Brandon League, in New Hampshire's pen), or rehabbing from injury (DJ Hanson and Jesse Harper) the journeyman, picked up as a minor league free agent, made his New Hampshire debut yesterday, in the rotation. After striking out the leadoff batter, Ozias gave up a triple off the bat of second base prospect Robinson Caņo, and a run-scoring double courtesy of Yankees' top prospect, catcher Dioner Navarro. Recently reactivated John-Ford Griffin tied up the game with a double of his own, cashing in Dominic Rich, who had singled, to extend his season-long hit-streak to seven. The only other blemish of Ozias' start (4 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) came in the top of the third, when Kevin Reese homered to right centre, giving Trenton a 2-1 lead. The game was close until the top of the sixth, when the Thunder scored six, via three long-balls (two off Ryan Houston, and one off Mississauga native, John Ogiltree). Unfortunately, Houston's four recorded outs (all strikeouts) were displaced by his five earned runs allowed.
Dan Jackson came on to pitch a scoreless ninth, but the Fisher Cats could not touch Trenton's arms (led by starter Javier Ortiz) for the most part. Tyrell Godwin drove in Jose Umbria in the eighth to make the score 8-2, and that is how the score would remain. The Fisher Cats did not draw a single walk, and without the nt pitching they had been getting previously from McGowan et al, it was inevitable they would lose for the first time at Gill Stadium.
Dunedin 1, Clearwater (PHI) 0 (14 innings)
The D-Jays and Threshers were locked in a 0-0 game through 13 1/2 innings until Mike Schmidt's relievers gave in, walking three Jays, including the winning run, in the bottom of the fourteenth. Second baseman Carlo Cota led off the fourteenth frame with a double. With first base unoccupied, Ron Davenport was walked intentionally. Playing textbook baseball, Miguel Negron bunted, moving the runners to second and third. Threshers skipper Mike Schmidt, reading the same textbook, had his reliever intentionally walk the next batter, recently-demoted Jason Waugh, to load the bases, creating a force at home. Brad Hassey couldn't end the game in his at bat, striking out, but Tim Whittaker picked up Hassey and Co., ending the game with the ever so pretty walk-off-walk, scoring Cota. The D-Jays drew eight walks on the day, offset by nine strikeouts. Waugh had three of the walks (two intentional), but Dunedin's offense didn't do much else on this day; as a team, they were 6-43, with Tingler (2-6, CS) and Cota (2-5, R, 2B, BB) being the only multi-hitters.
Obviously, the game was determined by outstanding pitching by both sides. Starting for the first time since early last year for Auburn, righty Jamie Vermilyea went four innings, presumably on a tight pitch count. He did not disappoint (2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO) in the highly anticipated outing, but he was almost a forgotten story once the masterful Dunedin relief corps had taken over. Chad Pleiness shut down the door for three innings (2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO). He was followed by Andy Torres, who hadn't allowed a run in relief this season over six innings. Andy's streak continued, as he no-hit the Threshers for the next three innings (0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO). Closer Bubbie Buzachero pitched a rare three-inning stint of his own, and was near perfect (1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO). Tommi Ozuna was credited with the win, narrowly escaping the top of the fourteenth, unscathed. Ozuna had runners on second and third with one out, but the lead run was cut down at the plate (Ozuna's assist; squeeze attempt, perhaps?) After an intential walk to load the bases, Ozuna preserved the tie by inducing a groundball out. Manager and organizational stalwart Omar Malave is deservedly off to a fine 8-2 start in Dunedin.
Charleston-WV 9, Hagerstown (SF) 8 (13 innings)
Ever heard of the Bedouin adage that you should "never corner a cat"? I hadn't either until my web quotation search, but the Charleston Alley Cats are making South Atlantic League opponents (and Bauxites alike) rememember it. Playing in their fourth extra-inning game (in just their ninth match of the season) and having won on all three previous extra-inning occasions, Charleston staged late-game heroics yet again yesterday, led by Ontarian Mike Galloway and second baseman Ryan Roberts. The Alley Cats were on the board first when Joey Wolfe's walk came around to score on a groundout by shortstop Juan Peralta. The Hagerstown Suns returned the favour in the bottom of the second, off Cats' starter Ramon Mora, to tie the game 1-1. Charleston took the lead again in the third when Roberts crushed a ball, for his first homer of the season. Mora couldn't get out of the bottom half of the third, as he walked two, balked one, allowed a single, and two home runs (not in that order exactly) before getting the hook from manager Ken Joyce, having given up seven runs in the inning (eight, total). Reliever Marcos Sandoval swiftly stopped the bleeding, passing the baton on to the Cat hitters; and accept the baton, they did. Trailing by six, the Cats clawed their way back in a hurry, with five runs in the top of the fourth. Back-to-back singles by the Joeys (Wolfe and Reiman) were advanced by a wild pitch. Successive RBI-singles by Chris Snavely and Peralta were followed by a walk by Willie Rivera to load the bases. Roberts drew a walk, scoring Snavely, David Smith singled to drive in another Cat, and with a new pitcher on the mound, Clint Johnston walked to bring in Charleston's fifth and final run of the inning.
Hagerstown held on to the the 8-7 lead until the top of the ninth, when Galloway came to bat with two away. The pride of St. Thomas had one the biggest hits of his young pro career, homering off Suns reliever Tim Alvarez, tying the game at eight apiece. Aforementioned Sandoval (3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO) and Joaquin Canizal (3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO) kept the opponents at bay in relief, forcing the game into extras, wherin Felix Romero (3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO) cemented the pens' brilliant effort. Ryan Roberts would be the thirteenth-inning hero, homering to the same place in deep right-center as he had done ten innings earlier, giving Charleston the 4-3 lead. Closer Brian Reed came on to pitch the bottom of the thirteenth and allowed a one-out single. With two away and a runner on second, Jon Coutlangus singled to left, but a strong and accurate throw by Brian Patrick to catcher Robby Diaz ended the game in a flurry at the plate. Romero picked up the win, while Reed netted his second save of the year. Roberts (3-6, BB, 2 HR, 3 RBI) led the Cats offense, which added 14 hits (Galloway and Peralta had two apiece) to its total. Suffice it to say that this Jays affiliate should reconsider their plan for a name change!
Our Third Star: Ryan Roberts, Charletston 2B, who was 3-6, with 2 HR, including the go-ahead shot in the 13th
Our Second Star: Chris Baker, Dunedin SP, who pitched another gem (6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO)
Our First Star: Mike Galloway, Charleston RF, who had a game-tying HR, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the Cats to play for the eventual win in the 13th
Honourable mention: Alex Rios (clutch HR), Brian Patrick (game-ending assist), Marcos Sandoval, Joaquin Canizal, Felix Romero, Jamie Vermilyea, Chad Pleiness, Andy Torres, Bubbie Buzachero
Full Three-Star Standings (games from April 8 - April 17):
8 Ismael Ramirez
8 Dustin McGowan
8 David Smith
6 Chris Baker
5 Alex Rios
5 Mike Galloway
5 Rob Cosby
5 Noah Hall
5 Josh Banks
5 David Bush
5 Francisco Rosario
4 Vito Chiaravalotti
3 Miguel Negron
3 Justin James
3 Tom Mastny
3 Chad Hermansen
2 Ryan Roberts
1 Cam Reimers
1 Shaun Marcum
1 Jason Frasor
1 Jayce Tingler
1 Danny Core
1 Justin Miller
1 Kurt Isenberg
Links of the Day
1. Mike Gullo, TheMinorsFirst.com, has an excellent in-game report on Alley Cat prospects, from his recent travels to (in)famous Walt Powell Stadium.
2. Gullo also has a handy list of all of the free minor league affiliate game feeds. Little did we know that many of the exciting Alley Cat games can be heard this year (without forking out thousands for that pay-to-listen scam!) as well as a ton of D-Jays games
3. Mike Mattson, Muskegon Chronicle, wrote an article on local standout Chad Pleiness and his hopes for a midseason promotion to Manchester.
4. Allen Lessels, Union Leader, has the game story from New Hampshire, and an update on the Fisher Cat stadium situation.
5. Matt Michael, Syracuse Post-Standard, has the game story on the Chiefs win yesterday.
Pawtucket (BOS) at Syracuse, 2:00 pm (Sean Douglass vs. Tim Kester)
Trenton (NYY) at New Hampshire, 1:05 pm (Derek Lee vs. Sean Henn)
Lakeland (DET) at Dunedin, 2:00 pm (Josh Banks vs. Kyle Sleeth)
Charleston-WV at Hagerstown (SF), 1:35 pm (TBA vs. TBA )